Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lurkers Corner ~ To Tell or Not To Tell

At last I have an excuse for another of these posts.

Here is the situation on the Juvenis campaign.  The players have clearly awoken something as a result of their actions at Mimmarudla, the dungeon they've plundered.  It has been clearly described now, today, that there is at least one group of frog-humanoids attacking people in Rogaland, the province of Norway where the party presently adventures.

No one in Rogaland seems to know what it is that was awoken or where these things have come from, though the party knows.

The question is this: should the party own up?  Should they go to authorities, identify the location of the dungeon and express their actions?  Or should they keep silent in the face of multiple deaths that have occurred thus far.

I love dilemmas like this, though the online party has barely acknowledged that there even is a dilemma.  The cleric, Engelhart, has expressed the questions I've just asked, but seems quite content to keep silent.  To me, a situation like this speaks to more than the character in the game: it speaks to the character of the player, as well.

Granted, everything that has happened is fictional and in game ~ so the dilemma has to be, what is the best way to continue the game?  Volunteer what we know or not?  Which offers the best opportunities, the best reward, the best survival expectation?  We can't argue morality (though there is a moral question here), but we can argue the nature of the game characters and what this says about their selfishness vs. their social responsibility.

I want to add that the most successful parties in my decades of game experience were those who consistently chose one of these options, though I won't say which.

Please weigh in.

UPDATE: the party has begun to discuss the dilemma now.


Keith S said...

I struggle with this dilemma at times. Some of my players just don't care about the world, and the NPCs in it. They treat it like a video game, where their random violence and anti-social behavior has no consequences.

Of course, I have to apply consequences. And find NPCs and stories the players connect with. It's only when they begin to see the NPCs as more than bags of HP or GP that they begin to care. I can't make them care, but I can give them reasons to choose one way or the other.

Tim said...

Oh man I've really learned to love these sorts of dilemmas as a DM since taking your classes. It makes me wish for when I had more players: big groups get endlessly stuck on how to resolve conflicts like this, giving you tons of room to tease them one way or another. It's not even a case of sadism or control: more like you just get to witness these suddenly very honest human responses to crises. That's where you find the real strain and excitement, balancing the risks and hoping once a decision is reached that it works out.
Honestly (no pun intended) I'd probably choose to lie or dodge responsibility, but the situation had such a wonderful sense of risk – like not doing anything could make it spiral out of control – that I'm eager to just see what the resolution will be. No pressure, guys!

Lothar Svensson said...

Yeah, there is definitely a sense of "things are going to get waay out of hand if we don't do something." At least in my head anyway. For a bit there I was waffling back and forth between wanting to tell somebody and wanting to keep my head down. What pushed me to the "fess up" side was a combination of Embla's reasoning and Engelhart's denial of our responsibility. My hope was (as I expressed in the campaign thread) that we'd be able to put a lid on the whole ordeal and clean it up ourselves before it got to be too big. Unfortunately the rain and the battered state of our party after the fight with the frogs made it impossible for us to get on top of the situation before it spiraled out of control.

On the topic of "fessing up", I think there is a bit more nuance available to us than the dichotomy of "Hey we saw some stuff at this place" vs "We did this and please put us in prison because we are like children playing where we ought not to have been". But that discussion I will save for tomorrow (game time).

On the whole, it's my opinion that the moral dilemma is one of the best sort of challenges to throw at a party. The twisting and turning of human reason wrestling with emotion, which must at the same time contend with the intellect and emotion of several other human beings with potentially vastly different worldviews make it a dramatically compelling event to watch; especially if one or more of those involved has a diametrically opposed worldview from the others, so that getting a consensus means having to drill down to the core of both parties to find commonality and an acceptable path forward for both. Plus, it will work at any level because it involves more philosophy than prowess. (I do wish those words were alliterative, I'll have to settle for starting with the same letter...)

Anyway, I'm having a blast and look forward to seeing what comes next, both from our esteemed DM and from the party.

Joey Bennett said...

I think the most important thing is that they consciously decide. I think that an argument could be made for either decision and I think that, in game, a decision like this is more dependent upon what experience the players are looking for.

Are they interested in the 'roleplaying' aspect of the game? If they tell the authorities, they must successfully navigate the politics of the situation, and convince the local authorities to help take care of the situation without being thrown in jail

Are they more interested in the exploration and combat aspects? If they go back to Mimmarudla on their own, they potentially have to deal with a more dangerous situation by themselves, but have a lower likelihood of having to deal with the authorities if they can handle it themselves.

This is where I personally would base my character's input into the discussion on how I conceptualize his personality. If he was more inclined to remorse and retrospection, I would be inclined to suggest the former. If he was more mercenary in his outlook, I would probably be inclined to be more supportive of the latter.

Discord said...

I don't have anything insightful to add to the conversation, but I'm anxiously waiting to see how the situation develops. I wish I could get this kind of buy-in from my campaign!

Lance Duncan said...

It's certainly an interesting dilemma, and I don't know if I would go to the authorities if I were a player in that situation.

As far as having player buy-in and an actual concern about the consequences of their actions; I think the fact that it is an online campaign greatly influences their behavior in such situations. They already made a greater commitment than just 'showing up' when they started the online campaign.

Alexis Smolensk said...


I've actually found it much easier to push players into a conundrum like this at a live table, since I can add momentum and expectation into the mix. I can stand up, walk about the table while quickly describing the events in a much closer order, in a few minutes at a stroke, forcing the players to feel the dilemma more sharply because it is hitting them like hammer blows.

It is harder to do this online, because the players have time to contemplate, consider, pull back and feel less pressured, as the game unfolds over days, not minutes.

I think that many people over-value the "buy-in" factor. I spent time in my book, How to Run, talking about how the game is not a transaction between the DM and the player, but a mutual presentation in which my part is not to sell something to the player, but to manifest a situation that the player can feel emotionally and make a natural response - like poking someone with a pin. You don't "buy in" to the pin. You feel it and you cannot help the response.

DMs often fail to understand this technique and it weakens their games. Players are human beings, with human responses. To get the response we want, we don't wait for them to buy. We force them to react.

Lothar Svensson said...

Ha! And so the intensity increases!